Feline nail problems

Written by shoaib khan
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Feline nail problems
You should regularly trim and clean your cat's nails. (cat image by Zbigniew Nowak from Fotolia.com)

Your cat may experience pain when it breaks or tears a nail. If nails are not trimmed regularly, they can pose significant dangers to the cat's health, as well as the owners. In order to minimise the risks of damage to your cat's health--and also your household appliances and furniture--you should maintain your cat's nails carefully. You will find that proper maintenance through nail cleaning and trimming will keep your cat's nails in good shape. Pet supplies stores have specialised nail trimmers for cats.

Torn Nails

A cat may tear a nail when it gets lodged in small awkward places such as barbed wire openings, carpet fibres or steel mesh. When the cat is trapped, it frantically tries to manoeuvre itself out of the position and, if it is trapped in a particularly unwieldy position, it may try to jerk the limb free by shaking it. This attempt to dislodge may break the nail or tear it out of place. If the cat is young, it may cry and indicate discomfort, but the problem may be harder to detect in older cats that may show only subtle signs of distress.


Broken nails are the most common nail problems in cats. A cat with a broken nail will lick the injured area frequently and may also limp, depending on the extent of the injury. The cat may experience pain due to the torn toenail, and may bleed from the region if the wound is close to soft tissues in the paw. Although not life-threatening for the cat, a torn toenail can be quite distressing and may get worse if the cat applies pressure on the area. If not treated properly, the wound can be vulnerable to infections.

Nail Bed Infection

Nail bed infection (paronychia) is another problem that afflicts cats' nails. The disease in cats is often caused by a feline leukaemia virus infection. If one or two nails in the same paw are infected, it is probably caused by a bacterial infection. An underlying problem is suspected when the disease is seen in more than one paw. Immune mediated diseases such as pemphigus, hyperthyroidism and fungal infections also may cause nail bed infection in cats.


You should stop bleeding from your cat's nails immediately by applying cornflour. Remove the nail when the bleeding has subsided; sometimes you may be able to simply pull off the torn part if it is left dangling. If the nail is held strongly in place, use a trimmer to cut off the torn portion at the level of the tear. Don't attempt to trim if the tear is near the base of the nail, as an inexperienced or unsteady hand might hurt the cat even more. If you are able to dislodge the nail, wash the injured region with water to remove debris, and apply a light bandage.

Professional Care

Treatment for paronychia involves antihistamines in conjunction with fatty acids and cortisone injections. Silver nitrate and styptic pencils are used by veterinarians to control bleeding from a cat's nails. Take your cat to the veterinarian for routine checkups. When you treat a broken or torn nail, consult your vet for follow-up medication and care. Never give any medicine to your cat without approval from a professional source.

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